Jean’s Gospel: Psalm 5: Lead Me, O Lord – Part 1
Psalm 5 is a two-part prayer, alternating between complaint and supplication. It is a complaint against the ungodly, who under the name of God afflict the saints through lies, deceit and other wickedness; and it is a supplication for the Word of God, that it may prevail both to judge the ungodly and preserve the saints in faith, hope and love.
This psalm does not address any particular people or events, though there were men in David’s life who are recognizable from his complaints, for example: Ahithophel, David’s counselor; Absalom, his son; Joab, David’s commander; and Shimei, a relative of Saul. It is appropriate that Psalm 5 is not tied expressly to particular people or events, so that it may be a perpetual prayer of the saints. One can easily imagine this psalm being on the lips of the saints during the reign of Jeroboam.
There is little more destructive than godlessness by lies, flattery and deceit, which come into a congregation under the cover of truth and godliness. Without the pure Word of God, how are the saints to discern truth from lies?
St. Paul warned against such malignancies: “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor 11:14-15); and “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Eph 20:29-30)
The current times are certainly different, but the underlying danger to God’s people – Satan’s warfare against the Church – has not changed. Therefore, may Psalm 5 continue in the prayers of the Church until the glorious day of Christ’s return.
Psalm 5 – Part 1
“To the choirmaster: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.
1 Give ear to my words, O Lord;
consider my groaning.
2 Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.
3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.”
It is comforting to read that the psalms are not written for the mythical “spiritual master,” but for ordinary frail Christians who, in times of distress, may be able to express little more than brief words, groanings (i.e., inarticulate meditations; deep sighs, anxieties and concerns) and cries. In other words, these opening verses teach us not to delay our prayers until we have composed the perfect prayer, for if that be a condition, when would most of us ever pray?
Instead we are admonished to call on the name of the Lord with whatever words, inarticulate groanings and cries we can muster given the current circumstances. In this way, we are asking the Lord to understand from our hearts more than what we are able in the moment to say with words. This is quite okay.
Concerning prayer, generally, we have the Christ’s promises: “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt 6:8); and “if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Thus, nothing should ever impede a Christian from earnestly praying. God both knows our needs and His will is perfect. Therefore, when a Christian earnestly prays, he or she should be confident that God’s answer will be perfect and for our good.
“Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.” (Ps 5:2)
David opens his prayer by placing himself under his King and his God. This is nearly impossible for any man in actual practice to do, because of pride, much less for an earthly king of a great nation. But it is David’s prayer that the Lord would be to him both his King and His God.
To have God who is also your King is for a man to presume nothing in himself, but to yield himself to be governed and ruled by Christ, to become obedient, and to credit to God everything he receives. This is what the ungodly will never do, or at least they only feign it, because they credit their strength, wisdom, wealth and reputations to themselves.
If his adversaries were simply wicked men who were outward thieves or murderers, David would not be in so much distress; for anyone can recognize and avoid outward wickedness. But David’s adversaries thieve and murder through lies (v. 6), deceit (v. 6), and flattery (v. 9). One cannot so easily discern these kinds of ungodliness without the Word of God (v. 7), the fear of God (v. 7), and the grace of God (v. 12)
Thus, surrounded by adversaries, David implores his King and God for:
- direction: “make your way straight before me” (v. 8);
- protection: “spread your protection over them” (v. 11);
- justice: “Make them bear their guilt” (v. 10); and
- salvation: “you bless the righteous, O Lord, you cover him with favor as with a shield” (v.12).
David’s adversaries claim to possess all these things too, so David prays against them, that all their wicked words and actions will utterly fail: “let them fall by their own counsels” (v.10).
“O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” (Ps 5:3)
David is confident the Lord will hear his morning prayers because David has prepared a sacrifice pleasing to God. David’s true sacrifice is himself. It is not a righteous sacrifice, quite the opposite. David’s sacrifice is “a broken and contrite heart” (Ps 51:17) which trusts in the abundant mercy and steadfast love of the Lord.
David prays for God’s Word, that through it the Lord would lead David in the Lord’s righteousness (v. 8) and, in addition, that He would restrain and destroy the counsels of the ungodly, which threaten to devour the saints (v. 9-10).
David understands that the name of the Lord, His Word, His worship, and his heritage (i.e., His saints) all belong to the Lord. It, therefore, is the King’s responsibility to defend and fight for His saints. The King’s weapon is the Word of God. It is a powerfully creative Word; but it also is “a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces” (Jer 23:29).
David does not know when or how the Lord will act, so he prays to be preserved in the faith – “make your way straight before me” (Ps. 5:8). David desires to be made deaf to the false and deceptive counsels of the ungodly, but to be given ears to hear and a heart to trust in God’s Word alone. With God’s way made straight before him, David will remain faithful to the calling given him by God to shepherd his people as their rightful king.
In the meantime, David will “watch” attentively for the Lord’s salvation for His saints and for His judgment against the ungodly. (How well do we watch for answered prayers?) Amen.
Thank you for reading. Next week we will pick up Psalm 5 at verse 4 in which David speaks of the Lord’s abhorrence of the wicked. Amen.